Dr. Baston, RCC President, Chosen as National Designer in Residence To Reimagine the Role of Higher Education in Closing Racial and Economic Opportunity Gaps


Rockland Community College announced today that Dr. Michael Baston, President, has been selected to join the Education Design Lab’s Designers in Residence program. As a part of the program, Dr. Baston will be building on identifying the jobs of the future and developing curriculums and career skill pathways that meet the needs of community and commerce partners, and continuing to develop the RCC initiative of Steps Beyond Statements to close equity gaps.

Spanning a diverse cross-section of communities, institutional positionality, and lived experience and expertise, the Designers in Residence will work together as a design team to co-create a model for colleges to be regional change agents to close economic and racial opportunity gaps as we move into a post-COVID economy.

“I am honored to be selected to be a Designer in Residence. This presents a unique opportunity to learn from innovators across the country and contribute the insight we have amassed at RCC to help others develop the institutions that they want to see serving their communities. RCC has a long-standing commitment to be a catalyst for economic growth in our region, offering thoughtfully designed programs and partnerships that are responsive to both student and workforce needs. But we can always do more to support students, which includes learning from other innovators across the country,” said Dr. Baston. “Within the cohort, we will be able to leverage our collective expertise to develop new insights regarding how higher education can best serve students today and in the future. I look forward to those insights impacting not only our own students, but students across the country.”

Dr. Baston intends to share RCC’s Steps Beyond Statements program which dictates that community colleges must first offer a safe and welcoming environment, create strategic partnerships between the college and the community, and take advantage of organizational resources and collaborative leadership to ensure equitable opportunities and outcomes for all students.

In 2021, 22% fewer students enrolled in higher education than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a number that increases to 30% for students from low-income high schools. Simultaneously, 42% of jobs lost during the pandemic may disappear forever, requiring postsecondary education to reimagine how learners are prepared to enter the workforce. Across New York the number of students applying to attend one of the State University of New York’s 64 campuses fell by 20 percent this year amid the coronavirus pandemic. One of the major objectives of the Workforce Development Board of Rockland County is to strategically direct training resources to in-demand industries that are driving economic development in the County. The four key industries of focus are Advanced Manufacturing, Data Technology, Biomedical, and Hospitality and Tourism.

To help address these disparities, Designers in Residence will leverage their collective expertise to co-create a framework that centers on the needs of their learners within a rapidly evolving economy and provide the start of a roadmap for other institutions and innovators seeking to build and scale this system.

“We hope to emerge from this year with design tools that will position the scores of learner success partnerships around the country to seize what we all believe is an innovation moment, coming out of the pandemic,” said Kathleen deLaski, CEO of the Education Design Lab. “Colleges recognize that their roles are evolving along with learner views about degrees and employer’s needs, and with a heightened urgency around what it will take to break down racial and economic barriers to open up livable wage futures for all.”

Other members of the Designers in Residence cohort include:

Bonita Brown, Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, Northern Kentucky University

Ahmad Ezzeddine, Associate Vice President of Educational Outreach and International Programs, Wayne State University

Chanel L. Fort, Director of Academic Innovation and Learning Strategist, Fortified Learning Solutions, Stillman College

Rose Rojas, Interim Director of Workforce Strategy, Maricopa Community College

Adrian Haugabrook, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, Social Impact Collective, Southern New Hampshire University

Lisa Larson, President, Eastern Maine Community College

Cameron McCoy, Incoming Provost, Shenandoah University

Nicole McDonald, Assistant Vice President, University of Houston

Jairo McMican, Dean of Student Learning/Director of Equity and Pathways, Central Carolina Community College

Ian Roark, Vice President of Workforce Development and Strategic Partnerships, Pima Community College

Stacy Townsley, Vice President of Adult Strategy and Statewide Partnerships, Ivy Tech Community College

This program is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and views expressed by the program do not necessarily reflect positions or policies of the foundation. Learn more about the program here.

About Rockland Community College, State University of New York

Rockland Community College, State University of New York, offers a safe, supportive learning environment for thousands of students from diverse backgrounds who appreciate small class sizes and personal attention from a distinguished, award-winning faculty that includes Fulbright scholars and SUNY Distinguished Professors. Thanks to the school’s affordable tuition, students who begin their career journey at RCC and then transfer to a four-year college can save up to $100,000 on their education. RCC is also proud to provide career training and professional development to adult learners looking to change careers or upgrade their skills through its new Career Skills Academy. More information can be found at www.sunyrockland.edu.

About Education Design Lab: Education Design Lab is a national nonprofit that designs, tests, and implements unique higher education models and credentials that address the rapidly changing economy and emerging technology opportunities. The Lab demonstrates where technology, rigor and design can improve opportunity for historically underserved learners to maximize their potential in the higher education system.

Education Design Lab works across disciplines and alongside schools, employers, entrepreneurs, government, foundations, nonprofits and innovators. The organization has significant experience managing national and local learning cohorts, working with organizations such as The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, the United Negro College Fund, Walmart, American Council on Education and the ECMC Foundation. Learn more: www.eddesignlab.org.

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